A photograph of U.S. Marine veteran Ed Brady, 90, of Vineland, who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, during his service. / Submitted photo
Marine veteran Ed Brady, 90, of Vineland holds the U.S. Marines mascot, ‘Devil Dog,’ and a framed photo of members of Vineland Semper Marine Detachment 205 at his home Monday.
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Marine veteran Ed Brady, 90, of Vineland holds the U.S. Marines mascot, ‘Devil Dog,’ and a framed photo of members of Vineland Semper Marine Detachment 205 at his home Monday. / Staff photo/Cody Glenn
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VINELAND — The history of blacks in the military typically bring mention of the Tuskegee Airmen of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers — but not many may know the story of the Montford Point Marines.
City resident Ed Brady knows. He was one of them.
On Wednesday, Brady and hundreds of other remaining Montford Point Marines will be awarded the pristigious Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The medal is considered one of the highest civilian honors awarded by Congress for distinguished achievements and contributions. Past award recipients include George Washington, the Wright brothers, Walt Disney, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
The Montford Point Marines of North Carolina consisted of the first blacks to serve in the Marine Corps.
They will be honored specifically for their service in World War II during the battles of Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa — the latter two in which Brady was a part of.
The 90-year-old sat calmly in his home Monday as he reflected on his service. He had to be calm and witty in order to survive World War II, the Korean War and four tours of duty in the Vietnam War.
“I don’t think I really did anything special myself,” Brady said. “I think we as people were much more patriotic in those days than we are today.”
Brady grew up in Missouri, and was just a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Illinois when he joined the military in 1942. At that time the Marines were the last branch of the military that did not accept blacks, until President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned racial discrimination that year.
But blacks were still segregated once accepted. Brady and all others were sent to a separate training camp at Montford Point in North Carolina for basic training. The camp was a few miles away from Camp Lejeune, which was all-white.
About 20,000 black Marines trained at Montford Point from 1942 to 1949.
Brady was a foot soldier and later became a private.
“A lot of blacks were unemployed during the Great Depression,” he said. “We were accepted (when we applied) because we would’ve got drafted anyway.”
Brady said conditions at Montford Point were rough, but didn’t compare to battles he had been in over the years.
“It was pretty rough,” Brady said about his tours in Vietnam. “But that was what I got paid for.”
He retired and moved to Vineland in 1971.
“When it became a job, that was when it was time to quit,” he said.
The Montford Point Marines also will be honored Thursday at Marine Barracks Washington, the oldest active post in the country.